A self-described “super nerd,” Tobin Mathew has had a lifelong penchant for comic books, video games, toys and superheroes. In nursing school, he was drawn to pediatrics, which allowed him to apply his passion to the patients he treated every day. “Kids in the hospital are like any other kids. They want to hear about the coolest video games, the newest superhero and the latest Star Wars movie, and I was just the guy to talk to them about it,” said Tobin.
As a college student at the University of Illinois, Tobin searched for his niche. Initially, he studied psychology, but toward the end of his tenure, he took an introduction to nursing course that led him to his career path. “My mother is a nurse, as are my aunt and uncle. It was so natural and the easiest decision of my life,” said Tobin.
After graduating nursing school 12 years ago, Tobin set his sights on the best pediatric institution in the Midwest and went to work in surgical care at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital caring for kids as young as infants and up to young adults. Tobin could not be happier. He says he “has the best job in the world.”
Since day one, Tobin wore a superhero t-shirt to work and has never stopped. His repertoire has evolved into more than 70 t-shirts, capes and costumes including Batman (his personal favorite), Superman, Flash, Ninja Turtles, Imperial Storm Trooper, Hulk, Captain America and many more. Tobin dresses like this because he knows it breaks down walls and makes the hospital experience less threatening for young patients.
Since Halloween and Christmas are typically the most difficult times for children in the hospital, Tobin is more dedicated to putting a smile on the faces of his patients during these times. He works in full costume during the holidays and commits to at least five daily wardrobe changes. He also tries to do something unique for the kids to enjoy. He has sprinted around the 20th floor as Flash, hung upside down as Spiderman and destroyed a village as Hulk.
“The biggest compliment that you can receive is a family trusting you with their kids, the most important thing in their lives,” says Tobin. “Dressing as a superhero helps me to motivate myself to be the absolute best I can be for my families at the hospital. Some of the patients you take care of for months and years. It is my job to let them be kids, let them know I care and make that time as special as possible.”
The Nurse Award is presented to a licensed and practicing nurse, nursing student, or retired nurse who exhibited heroism either in their response to an emergency situation or through an ongoing commitment to the community through acts of kindness, courage or unselfishness in response to an identified need.
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